Quick Draw: A Retrospective on Pictionary


I always enjoyed drawing as a child. I’d sketch doodles in class, mangle my favorite comic book characters into goofy shapes at home, and generally think of myself as an artist on par with Picasso or Jack Kirby (spoiler: I was neither). I’m telling you this story so that I may frame my next tale: I have only ever once been allowed to play Pictionary in my life. Every time a Family Game Night was had with dozens of us together, the classics were brought out along with the new games of the hour and someone would always recommend Pictionary (usually me, because I always really wanted to play it), though the choice would typically land on Monopoly, possibly because my family never really loved me much anyway.

Anyway, let’s talk about Pictionary while we’re here. Sound good? Good.

Anyone feel like playing with me?

Pictionary’s history isn’t anything incredibly exciting. It was developed by Robert Angel and published by Seattle Games Inc in 1985. That’s pretty much the whole story there. But like so many other games, Pictionary doesn’t need an elaborate backstory or an origin story as convoluted as, oh, let’s say Tetris (another day). Pictionary is a simple concept and it comes from humble beginnings. So let’s get into the rules!

The rules are equally as simplistic as any other game you could play. Players break off into teams and go around the game board, landing on various squares color-coded to the categories of what they’ll be drawing: Yellow for Person/Place/Animal, Blue for Object, Orange for Action, Green for Difficult (difficult is a thing, apparently), and Red for All Play, an instance where, as you may have guessed, everyone plays. Some versions have a Purple square that lets you pick what you’d like to do, but I’m not talking about these fancy editions or anything; I just want to draw already!

Okay, so as you get your card, let’s say you landed on a Yellow space, you’ll have to attempt to draw the word in the yellow for your team. Let’s also just say that the word is “Crocodile.” You have approximately one minute to draw something that makes them guess the word is “crocodile” without using letters or numbers or speaking. So really, it’s like charades for artists. I seriously can’t make the game sound more elaborate than that. It’s just that simple.

So how to you plan strategies for such an event? Assuming your family loves you enough to actually play Pictionary with you, they’ll probably also know who among them can draw and who can’t. Stacking a team with only artists is a good way to win, but not a fun way to draw unless you add more rules like “No Drawing Faces” or “No Right-Angles.” Then we learn who the real artists in the family are!

Letting the DVD draw for you is cheating!

As I’d mentioned a while ago in How To Beat Your Friends In Board Games, a perfectly great strategy is to have a shorthand code for just about every instance. Let’s say you get the word “Dollhouse.” Perhaps you and your partner already know that if you draw just the roof part (^), it means “House,” and a simple stick figure with round hands means “Doll.” You can draw a dollhouse far faster and have your partner know exactly what you’re attempting to draw, pretty much every time. This way takes a lot of clever planning beforehand, plus it sort of breaks the fun of the game, but if you want to win every time, there’s your strategy.

And that’s essentially everything there is to say about Pictionary. You can find a version in just about every department store or online at all the usual places. Me, I’m still hoping to convince my family to play sometime. Maybe someday they’ll love me enough.

Want more on board games? Check these articles out:

Think While you Have Fun!: Yahtzee

Starving For Entertainment: Hungry Hungry Hippos

Like Capture The Flag With Bombs: A Stratego Retrospective


About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

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